While a shortage of workers pushes wages higher in the skilled trades, the financial return from a bachelor’s degree is softening, even as the price, and the average debt into which it plunges students, remain high.

But high school graduates have been so effectively encouraged to get a bachelor’s that high-paid jobs requiring shorter and less expensive training are going unfilled.

“Parents want success for their kids,” Mike Clifton, who taught machining for more than two decades at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology before retiring, said in 2018. “They get stuck on [four-year bachelor’s degrees], and they’re not seeing the shortage there is in tradespeople until they hire a plumber and have to write a check.”

The Washington State Auditor found in 2017 that good jobs in the skilled trades were going begging because students are being almost universally steered to bachelor’s degrees. Recent labor statistics suggest that’s still the case – in Washington State and around the country.

President Joe Biden, in his State of the Union address, spoke of “jobs paying an average of $130,000 a year, and many do not require a college degree.”

Among other things, the Washington auditor recommended that career guidance — including choices that require fewer than four years in college — start as early as the seventh grade.

“There is an emphasis on the four-year university track” in high schools, Chris Cortines, who co-authored the report, said after it was issued. Yet, nationwide, nearly three out of 10 high school grads who go to four-year public universities haven’t earned degrees within six years, the most recent figures from the National Student Clearinghouse show. At four-year private colleges, that number is nearly one in five.

“Being more aware of other types of options may be exactly what they need,” Cortines said. In spite of a perception that college “is the sole path for everybody,” he said, “when you look at the types of wages that apprenticeships and other career areas pay, and the fact that you do not pay four years of tuition and you’re paid while you learn, these other paths really need some additional consideration.

Read the full article about students going into trades by Jon Marcus at The Hechinger Report.